Friday, 28 September 2007

Myanmar’s D-Day has finally come?

For years you do not hear a thing about the country. A page 6 comment from time to time, about the cruelties of the military regime, the extension of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest, the continuation of suppression or the brutal violation of human rights. And then suddenly, last week, the Day is there!

Finally a revolt has broken out; the people stand up, speak with one voice and show the world, but especially themselves, the guts they have to openly challenge their military rulers. Under the leadership of some organized monks, thousands of protesters are hitting the streets for over a week now. Perhaps last week is the beginning of the end. Will this be Myanmar’s D-Day?

Their timing could not be better, the annual meeting of world leaders at the UN headquarters in New York started on Mon and the Security council has demanded the military regime to ‘respond mild’. The world press is watching and the people from Myanmar (aka Burma) feel encouraged by the ‘unofficial’ officials from the US, British and French embassies who strongly support this coup attempt. But, how unexpected, it is not more than a handful of advice and recommendations coming from New York. It is now up to the Burmese people: if they will be able to destabilize the country in such a way and for a decent amount of time, then they can just hope for enlightening within the country’s elite or a military response which must be so unreasonable and internationally seen as ‘disproportionate’ will they get established regional superpower China withdraws its support and will make the long awaited changes possible.
If that is not going to happen, and the current leaders of Myanmar will continue to feel strengthened by the backing of Beijing, then the events of last and this week will go down in history as courageous, intense and important, but also nothing more than another (like in 1988) failed attempt to oust this regime and a confirmation that this government is unstoppable unless (military) aid comes from the outside world. If that is how the Burmese people will start be feeling in a few weeks, they better prepare for a disappointment, since it is crystal clear not any of the mayor superpowers which support the protesters is waiting, or capable, to sent their ‘boys’ to Myanmar.
(pic: New York Times)

Monday, 24 September 2007

Die hard media pro's

Swedish hostess Eva Nazemson accidentally vomiting in the middle of the live-tv game show 'Nattliv' on national television.

She throws up and comes back seconds later, cheering the whole situation and Eva tells the guy and the viewers that she is in her period right now: 'It's live television so anything can happen'.
This is what I call a professional!

Tehran's PR machine

President Bush visiting Tehran anytime soon? Unthinkable. But apparently it is possible the other way around: this morning the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in New York City, the financial heart of the states, to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations. The Iranian head of state made sure his visit stayed not unnoticed: he gave an interview to CBS’ ’60 Minutes’ and managed to impress the viewer with moderate comments, mild language and socially wanted answers. To the question ‘why do you want to visit the WTC site?’ he replied: ‘I want to show respect to the American nation’ Excuse me? Did I miss something? Do miracles really exist? The whole interview is one hour and 22 minutes, but this was without any doubt the most remarkable thing he said:

I think this interview and his presence at the annual meeting of the United Nations in Manhattan are two perfect examples how to practice a sublime public relations policy, not to mention the fact he will hold a speech early this week at the prestigious Columbia University. And don't forget, last August the father of three gave filmmaker Oliver Stone permission to make a biopic film on him

Although the US had no other choice than to grant him a visa (refusing the head of a state which is a full member of the UN was hard to explain), they did prevent him from visiting the WTC site, due to ‘logistical and security matters’, as the official explanation stated. The real reason is thought to be the fear of the Americans Ahmadinejad would create a forum on a place where (Muslim) terrorist killed thousands of (innocent) Americans.

Nevertheless, millions of Americans will see Ahmadinejad on the evening news tonight and they will hear what he has to say: he does not want to make a nuclear bomb, he wants to pay respect to the American nation, etc.etc. Whether his motives are genuine or sinister, nobody seems to know, but for sure his PR is perfect and without any doubt he has some of the best advisers in that field. Do you think we will ever see President Bush granting an interview to an Iranian channel (or even Al-Jazeera), pictured with Iranian students and ‘paying respect to the great Iranian nation’? Or giving approval to an Iranian director to make a documentary about his life? I do not think so. In that sense, it is 1-0 for the Ahmadinejad administration, even before the UN annual meeting has started. And it is just the beginning of the week…

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Oops I did it again!

Some fans can be carried away a bit too much, I guess: not everyone can be 'a star named lucky'. What the ..., get a life!

Remember where you were?

Six years ago the world was shocked and horrified by television images which showed some buildings on fire in New York. Not the fact two skyscrapers were destroyed and the Pentagon was partly damaged: it was the symbolic value of the event which sent out shock waves through the world. How could this happen in the free world? In the economic heart of America? In the land of the brave and the free?

Everything focused on one man: Osama bin Laden. ‘We will smoke them out of their holes and bring them to justice’ seemed to be America’s first political top priority.

Who could have thought six years ago the Taliban was going to be destroyed, Saddam brought to Justice, Ali Chemical-I the death penalty, Iraq would get a multi-party government for the first time in its history with Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites united, Iran’s position was going to be stronger than ever and bomb attacks in London and Madrid would follow.

I did not, that is for sure. But what I am amazed about is that although the political landscape in the world has changed, governments were brought down and UN resolutions ignored, Osama is still on the run. Today, on September 11, Al Qaida realised a video with a statement of Osama bin Laden, who last appeared on TV in the summer of 2003, just before the US presidential elections. How is it possible that the most powerful nation in the world has still not captured him? Dead or alive. How come the CIA, MI5 or the Mossad really have no idea where he might be? And if they do, why do they not do everything they can so they will be able to show the American people - sooner than later - that they ‘got him’? Perhaps because Osama does not have any oil… That sounds too easy for me, but it raises questions, and makes you wonder, might there be an agreement, a ‘plan’? If you like conspiracy theories do not hesitate and watch an impressively edited documentary: ‘Loose Change’, which was very controversial in the States and was banned by several US, British and European television stations. Forget Michael Moore: this is real propaganda.

If you believe in the theory, it probably will not ever happen again. After all, the ‘Pearl Harbour’ effect has already been created, so could this never happen again? Perhaps Osama will not be able to cause such a disaster again personally, but here is a remarkable detail of a recent political summit, to illustrate security is never a thing which can be fully controlled by big armies or well trained bodyguards.

It took just a few minutes for a satirical skit by comedians to pierce the $250 million Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting security cocoon in Sydney last week. With three black cars, a couple of motorbikes and men in black running alongside, the motorcade breezed through two police security checkpoints arriving outside the Intercontinental Hotel where US President George Bush is staying.

The security faux pas was only detected when the motorcade turned around and an Osama Bin Laden look-a-like figure climbed out of the limousine, drawing immediate police attention. Eleven people - the comedians and their support crew - were frisked, arrested, detained and charged (The Star, Malaysia)

Did you know...

The former British Prime Minister’s wife Cherie Blair was in 2003 in Melbourne, Australia, with her children when she visited the designer store Globe International, where as a courtesy she was invited to help herself to a ‘few items’ as a gesture of ‘hospitality to the wife of the second most powerful man in the world’.

She responded by helping herself to 80 pieces or more. According to one witness: ‘It was an invitation to pick out a few items and they walked out with hundred’. Downing Street later stated that Mrs Blair had repaid in full the US$ 4000 value of the goods taken.

Monday, 3 September 2007

‘Come down and drown yourself’

A day or two ago I was distracted to this woman on the ITV evening news who was returning to her home in Greece after fires destroyed most of her village, a few hours north of Delphi, and her son went missing a few days earlier in the same region. Overwhelmed by emotions she screamed something which translates as ‘Six months ago we were cheering for our Mayor and now the whole place burns down, he should drown himself in the river!’ At first I thought it was an outcry of an old fool, the laughing stock of the village. But soon the rest of the people present seemed to agree and soon they made an appeal for the Mayor ‘to stop hiding, be a man and drown himself in the river’.

A few hours later BBC24 brought the news thousands of protestors in Athens, the capital, were chanting anti-government rhetoric in front of the office of the Prime Minister. Then I realized there are still third world countries in the EU. Where else in a civilized country can you see citizens chasing down the local Mayor for a natural disaster? To demand him present in the village, maybe even request for his arrest, fine. But make a (serious) appeal ‘to drown him in the river’, or even better; he should ‘come down and drown himself’?

Although the question ‘should that water not be used for something else right now’ popped up right away, I imagined the situation ‘what if there was more than enough water’.
When the flooding took place in England five weeks ago, I did not see any protestors outside Downing Street or any mayor in the Oxford area asking for a protection program. Natural disasters, whether that is a flooding, fire, earthquake or hurricane, are out of human control and can not be blamed on some politicians or local heroes. That is what happens in parts of the area we horribly call ‘the third world’; where people believe in local medicine men, voodoo and higher powers within mortal human beings. The power of the nature is sometimes too much for some us, we need to blame someone in charge to compensate our loss and sadness.

However, if Greece was showing me pictures normally shot in Africa or South-America, what to think of New Orleans after Katrina? I guess philosopher Locke would have loved it: an organized country with a (relatively) developed society is suddenly (partly) thrown back into disorder; into complete chaos. Perhaps in such a situation the ‘basic instinct’ of people appears, the ‘survivor’ within all of us. Nevertheless, how we respond to it differs from person to person, from tribe to village, from community to society: does someone really believe drowning the mayor will bring back her son or her house? How much we love to play the blame game, it is unrealistic and simplistic to blame a local policymaker (or as good as any individual) for fires and events started by others. Those are the ones who have to be blamed, who have to be brought to justice, if you want to play that game. At the end of the day there are still elements like climate change and natural powers; and I suppose that can sometimes be in conflict with common sense. At least there can be said it takes courage to run for Mayor in certain parts of Greece. Although it might be tempting to solve problems with ancient, classic methods, I do not see Ken Livingston (if not Boris Johnson) being drowned in the Thames if the whole congestion charge scheme turns out to be a massive failure or when the first teenage killing takes place in the West End.
Pic 1: Pic 2: